Walking into TBEX is a little like taking those first tentative steps into your high school reunion–you’re in touch with a few folks regularly and a bunch of others you may know only in passing, your entire relationship based on a Retweet here, a “Like” there.

This is where the power of online interaction runs into the reality of face-to-face contact. Meeting your contacts in person – and getting something out of it – calls for true interpersonal skills and a reliance on networking in the pre-digital sense.

But have no fear! Making the TBEX leap from virtual to real-world connections can be mastered. It can even be fun! (After all travel is the great equalizer, and you are an ace at that.)

Toward that end, here are four tips for getting the most out of TBEX 2014, as tendered by the travel pros who have been there and not only survived but thrived.

The SPG AmEx Lounge at TBEX 2013 in Toronto

The SPG AmEx Lounge at TBEX 2013 in Toronto

1. A BIT OF PRE-PLANNING

Just like a little bit of pre-departure itinerary-setting helps you get more out of a trip, you’ll find TBEX to be way more navigable and digestible if you go in knowing what you want to accomplish. So set some specific goals. They can be as simple as “find my next destination” or as practical as “make three new business contacts.”

Going in with a short list will provide structure, keep you on course, and still leave you open to great possibilities and being in the moment.

2. STAY ORGANIZED

We may be living in the digital age, but the real workhorse of TBEX is still the humble business card – the ones you hand out and, just as important, the ones that get handed to you. Keeping them organized is key.

Veteran travel expert Johnny Jet advises, “Separate your business cards. Keep yours handy in a dedicated pocket and stow the cards from the people you meet in a separate pocket. When you get back to your room jot down notes on the back of each card about the person who handed it to you, then promptly send them a note when you return home.”

3. HIT THE LOUNGE

Back in its fourth year, the SPG AmEx Lounge returns courtesy of The Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card® from American Express. It’s a great place to arrange your first real-life meetings or recharge for those who to need regular breaks throughout the day.

“The SPG AmEx lounge was a great meeting place to network with other like-minded travel bloggers. It was the perfect spot to find answers to topics not covered in TBEX sessions, and anything was on the table with the top travel bloggers from around the world,” said Clint Johnston of TripHackr.com

With comfortable lounge seating and plenty of work-ready “Recharge Stations,” you’ll always be fresh, prepared, and on top of your game.

4. K.I.T.

Family travel maven and founder of KidsNTrips Jennifer Leo advises: Meet as many people as you can – in line for lunch, waiting for the next panel to begin or just milling around at the check-in desk – and keep in touch with them.

“Even if it doesn’t seem like someone I meet can be an immediate lead, there’s always a possibility he or she will be in need of my services at some point down the road,” she says. “Some of my most productive relationships started as chance conference meetings that stayed dormant for months or even years – but then sprang to life once that person got a little further down the career track and decided it was time to call on me for help.”

 Author Bio:  D. Kornhaber on behalf of The Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express. Be sure to stop by the SPG AmEx Lounge, the official lounge at TBEX 2014, from 8am to 6pm on 9/12 and 9/13.